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Aerobic Water Exercise and Aquatic Therapy

Use Aquatic Exercises for injury rehabilitation and maintaining fitness.

by Brad Walker | First Published May 21, 2001 | Updated September 8, 2017

Part 1:
It’s been called everything from aerobic water exercise to aquatic therapy and water aerobics. However, it’s more than just kicking up and down the local pool or spending some time in a hot, bubbling spa. Used correctly, aquatic therapy is a marvelous tool to complement your regular training, or for assisting recovery from hard training and serious injury.

What is Aquatic Therapy?

So what is actually meant when someone talks of aerobic water exercise or aquatic therapy? In its broadest sense, aquatic therapy can be any activity that is performed in water. However, I like to break these activities into two major areas that relate specifically to sport, exercise, fitness and health.

Firstly, aquatic therapy is any exercises done in water to complement and enhance your regular training and exercise. Secondly, aquatic therapy is any activity performed in water to assist in rehabilitation and recovery from hard training or serious injury.

Features of Aquatic Therapy

One of the main features of aquatic therapy is that it allows you to exercise without the jarring and jolting experienced when training on land. It is estimated that body weight is compounded up to five times during the heel strike when running or jogging. This does not occur during deep water or aquatic exercise. The buoyant properties of water mean that you are able to perform exercise without any significant impact at all.

This feature alone makes aquatic therapy stand out from a number of other recovery and rehabilitation exercises. When injured it is extremely difficult to find exercises and activities that allow you to maintain your current level of fitness and don’t jeopardise or risk further injury. However, the use of aquatic therapy or deep water exercises puts the body in a near zero gravity environment. Meaning there is virtually no impact or jarring on any of the body’s joints, muscles, ligament, tendons or bones.

This is especially important when you have spent time organizing your goals and putting them into a plan of action. The last thing you want to do is have to take time off because of an injury. Even during your normal exercise routine there is always the possibility that small, minute injuries occurred during the session. It is these small, minute injuries which, if left unattended, can build up over time and lead to major, debilitating injuries which can cost you weeks, if not months, in recovery time. This is where aquatic therapy can assist by helping recovery without any loss to your training schedule.

Another important feature of aquatic therapy is that water increases the resistance experienced while training. The great thing about this increased resistance, is that it’s variable. Meaning, the faster and harder you work against the water, the greater the resistance you encounter and the harder the work out. So, if you’re injured or just looking for an easy work out, you can take it slow and gently move your limbs against the water. However, if you want a tough work out, go as hard and as fast as you can, the water will always return an equal resistance. Click here for sample routines and aerobic water exercises.

Benefits of Aquatic Therapy

From the two features mentioned previously, you can see that aquatic therapy is a very safe and beneficial form of exercise. As well as a number of cardiovascular and respiratory benefits, aquatic therapy also helps to:

  • increase and maintain muscular flexibility;
  • improve mobility and range of motion;
  • increase muscular strength; and
  • improve coordination, balance and postural alignment.

Other benefits include:

  • a high calorie consumption;
  • a massaging effect on your muscles;
  • the ability to train during very hot weather, (using an outdoor pool or freshwater lake;
  • the ability to train during very cold weather, (using an indoor heated pool);
  • a great supplement or alternative to regular training;
  • is usually pleasurable and very relaxing; and
  • because your body is supported by water your heart rate is slightly lower, meaning aquatic therapy is relatively safe for obese individuals, pregnant ladies and those suffering from hypertension and heart disease.

That takes care of most of the theoretical aspects of deep water running. In the next issue we’ll have a look at some of the more practical ways to use aquatic therapy and aerobic water exercise. Click here to read part 2 of this article.

Brad Walker - AKA The Stretch CoachAbout the Author: Brad is often referred to as the "Stretch Coach" and has even been called the Stretching Guru. Magazines such as Runners World, Bicycling, Triathlete, Swimming & Fitness, and Triathlon Sports have all featured his work. Amazon has listed his books on five Best-Seller lists. Google cites over 100,000 references to him and his work on the internet. And satisfied customers from 122 countries have sent 100's of testimonials. If you want to know about stretching, flexibility or sports injury management, Brad Walker is the go-to-guy.